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Alistair Taylor - `A Secret History' of the Beatles first Manager!

Posted Thursday, May 31, 2007

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`A Secret History’ of Alistair Taylor

Interview - Tom Bates. Dec. 2001

An amazing quirk of fate; weird coincidence; or perhaps a major dollop of poetic justice – call it what you will, the fact remains that it is quite astounding that Alistair Taylor’s book `A Secret History’ should be published on the very same day - Thursday November 29th - that the world mourned the death of pop legend and former Beatle, George Harrison.

For it was on a November day exactly forty six years ago that Alistair, now a resident of Darley Dale for the past 25 years, first met George Harrison when he accompanied his then boss Brian Epstein to the famous Cavern Club in Liverpool to watch a local group of four mop-haired young scousers who called themselves `The Beatles’.

As most pop music fans will know, especially those who witnessed the social phenomenon of `Beatlemania’ in the early sixties, Epstein went on to become manager of The Beatles – and The Beatles went on to become icons of a musical and cultural revolution that swept the world and made them into the biggest-selling and most famous song-writers and recording artistes in history.

But `history’ - as the old saying goes `is written by the winners’ – and though Alistair Taylor became general manager of Apple Corps, the Beatles company, and despite the fact that he was a personal friend of them all and for a while Paul McCartney’s Personal Assistant, he was sacked after a management re-shuffle following the death of Brian Epstein and all traces of the integral role he played have subsequently disappeared from the records. There is no mention of his name anywhere amongst the massive tome of `The Beatles Anthology’ which was published in 2000 and weighs in at 8lb 12 ozs– neither will you find it in any of the hundreds of books and stories written about The Beatles over the years. In fact it would seem, so far as The Beatles are concerned that Alistair Taylor doesn’t exist - and this is the reason why the former manager of the Fab Four who has lived in obscurity at his Darley Dale cottage for the past quarter of a century has decided “to put the record straight” with the publication of his book.

Alistair and his wife Lesley are senior citizens, who celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary on Christmas Eve at their Darley Dale cottage, where they live humbly on their retirement pension, and where any semblance of their former jet-set lifestyle exists only in cherished memories.

But what memories! These, and numerous anecdotes, previously unrecorded facts about The Beatles early career - and Alistairs life as the Beatles `Mr Fixit’ from 1961 to when he was sacked as General Manager of Apple in 1969, are put together eloquently and passionately in his compelling and perfectly titled book.

Without giving away too many of the `secrets’, the book’s Prologue by Stafford Hildred whets the appetite of the reader with a brief synopsis about Alistair:-

“He was the man standing beside manager Brian Epstein when he first saw The Beatles playing at the Cavern on 9th November 1961¼and “apart from John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best, Alistair Taylor is the only other name on the Beatles’ first contract. He arranged flights, deflected paternity suites, lent money and often a shoulder to cry on. He bought islands, cars and houses for the Fab Four, and persuaded George Harrison not to quit the group. He survived a determined attempt by John Lennon to turn him on to LSD. He lost Ringo in the middle of Paris Airport – and he was a grief counsellor for Paul McCartney when Jane Asher dumped him after she came home early and found him in their bed with another woman”.

He was also the first on the scene, along with the doctor who broke into Brian Epstein’s locked bedroom to find the 32 - year old Beatles manager dead in his bed on that fateful morning in August 1967.

“Brian was my boss, but he was also a wonderful man, and I loved him like a brother” Alistair told me when I caught up with him recently in Darley Dale, near Matlock after he had just finished a telephoned interview with BBC Radio Leeds about his new book.

Alistair’s amazing life could have been even more amazing had he accepted Brian Epstein’s offer of a two and a half per cent stake in the Beatles in 1961. He turned it down in preference to a regular wage – a decision which is said to have cost him around £150m!

“Things were never the same after Brian’s death, and although at John Lennon’s request I later became General Manager of Apple, in the management battle that followed, Alan Klein was brought in from America, and I was sacked”.

Was he bitter?

“No, I was never bitter” said Alistair, “I’m not that kind of person. But I was shocked and angry at the time. What really hurt was that I rang each one of the Beatles, just to make sure that they were aware of what was happening - and none of them would speak to me”. He added, “I honestly believe they were too embarrassed at the time”.

Alistair, who as General Manager of Epsteins NEMS Enterprises had Cilla Black, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas, The Fourmost and Sounds Incororated under his wing, also took Eric Clapton & Cream on their first American tour, and brought the Four Tops to Britain. He rubbed shoulders with the rich & famous and Bee Gee Maurice Gibb became a personal friend. He was Paul McCartney’s P.A. for awhile at his Cavendish Avenue home – and attended the Abbey Road recording sessions. One day at the studio John Lennon turned to him and said “Alistair I want you to buy me an island” and Alistair promptly bought one for him off the west coast of Ireland, which he later visited with John!

After leaving Apple in 1969 Alistair worked with the then unknown Elton John for a short while but he and Lesley hankered for the quiet life away from the helter-skelter of London. They saw an advert in The Times for a middle-aged couple to run a tea-room and craft centre at Lea in Derbyshire and moved there in 1975.

“It was supposed to be a profit-sharing venture” said Alistair, “but after nine months all we’d shared was a loss of £10 – so we gave it up. We had fallen in love with this area and didn’t want to leave, so we managed to scrape enough together to buy a little cottage at Darley Dale, and we’ve been here ever since”. In the interim Alistair has earned a crust by shovelling lead at Enthovens factory and has been both barman and pot-washer at local pubs around Matlock. A consequence of this has been that every time The Beatles have been mentioned in conversation Alistair has had to bite his lip. “After all” he explains, “you would hardly believe some bloke in a pub or local factory, if in talking about the Beatles, he suddenly announced that he knew them personally and had actually been their manager, would you”? I could see his point!

Of his amazing life, this thoroughly likeable, erudite and fascinating man says somewhat philosophically; “I’m not bitter about what happened in the end with The Beatles. I loved them all and it was an amazing time, a fun time, and I am priveleged to have been a part of it”

He is justifiably proud of his book, which achieves exactly what it was designed to do - sets the record straight and reveals `A Secret History’.

`A Secret History’ by Alistair Taylor (2001) (ISBN 1 903402 24 7) is published by John Blake Publishing Ltd of London - available at £16-95.

 
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